An overhead shot via a drone of the solar panels that grace the roof of the Mackwacis Health Centre building at Louis Bull First Nation.

First Nation goes green with energy

A project that was three years in the making has been turned on.

A project that was three years in the making has been turned on.

Back in the fall of 2013, the Louis Bull First Nation embarked on moving toward a more sustainable and environmentally friendly footprint that has now seen its first phase completed. The band hosted an open house Sept. 30 to officially flip the switch on the project.

The project included the installation of solar panels on four buildings in the community located just east of Highway 2 and north of Highway 611. The panels are designed to generate power and contribute back to the community in the way of economic savings that can be reinvested into other programs and projects.

The largest installation is on the adult learning centre with 160 panels that will generate an average of 44,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity annually while the other three buildings are smaller the fire hall/public works building with 100 panels with an average output of 27,000 kWh and both the health centre and Head Start building each housing 40 panels that will average 11,000 kWh.

It’s estimated the annual savings could be around $7,500 each year, though that amount could be higher depending if the band is able to sell any of its unused electrical generation back into the grid.

Louis Bull First Nation Coun. Desmond Bull is the driving force behind the project, who initially brought forward the idea after seeing what had been done on the nearby Montana First Nation.

“I felt we needed to try and develop something similar, but we didn’t know where to go,” he said.

That’s where Randall Benson and his first nations company, Gridworks Energy came in. The Edmonton-based company has been leading the charge on solar energy project design and installation for 16 years while also plugging into the educational side by developing a training program for the industry.

It was that training that first got Bull and his idea moving in the right direction.

“Myself and another band member took the five-day course that gave us the tools and showed us we could operate our own project,” Bull stated.

“It also helped us achieve our goals and enabled us to get an energy audit done on our buildings.”

That took a year to complete, which was followed by a lot of paperwork and applications for funding were approved last summer. It concluded with four more band members taking the training course to operate and maintain the system, installed earlier by staff from Gridworks, with some assistance from the trained band members.

Meanwhile, Benson explained it took two months to install the panels on the four buildings and this particular project shows just what is possible in what is still an emerging industry in Alberta.

“My hope is this helps promote the idea for other First Nations that they can get on the way to energy independence and also generate some great, and green, jobs too,” he said.

Also on hand for the launch were representatives from Greenpeace plus the federal and provincial governments, all of which applauded Louis Bull for their initiative.

“We were part of the initial discussions and hope this project helps promote, as an example to other First Nations, what is possible and the benefits that they can derive,” said Greenpeace’s Mike Hudema.

Alberta’s Indigenous Relations minister Richard Feehan agreed that Louis Bull could be a model.

“It’s forward-looking people like them that can make things happen and I’m elated that they are embracing the future and ensuring the land will remain strong, vibrant and sustainable for generations to come,” Feehan stated.

Bull added the band is now looking at more potential solar projects.

“We are searching for more to do with the understanding that we need to continue with our environmental stewardship of the land for the sake of the future,” he said.

 

Just Posted

NDP Leader Rachel Notley stops in Red Deer on campaign trail

Notley promises hospital expansion, cath lab, pipelines and energy industry expansion

Police seize loaded gun in Wetaskiwin

Man arrested with homemade rifle attempt to break into a commercial property

Ponoka Chamber to host election forum

All-candidates forum for Lacombe-Ponoka set for March 28 at the Ponoka Legion

St. Michael’s Church commemoration held west of Bashaw

The celebration acknowledged the history of Hungarian settlers in the area

Remember When: When Red Thunder performed in Ponoka

Celebrating Red Thunder who performed at Ponoka’s centennial homecoming

Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

Latest budget includes a sprinkling of money for voters across a wide spectrum

European, Canadian regulators to do own review of Boeing jet

Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1

Prime minister defends Liberal budget measures as sales effort gets underway

Conservatives under Andrew Scheer say it’s a spree funded by borrowing against the future

Carbon tax, oil and gas investment dominate Day 2 of Alberta campaign

NDP pledges more oil and gas processing, UCP slams provincial and federal governments on carbon tax

Another gun seized by police in Wetaskiwin

Maskwacis RCMP arrest two youths, seize firearm in Wetaskiwin

Sundre RCMP looking for 4 missing bison

A Sundre bison rancher is missing four bison from January and RCMP ask for help from the public

Targeted methane emission cut rules estimated to save billions, says CERI study

Federal government has proposed regulations for methane emission reductions from oil and gas sector

Celina Caesar-Chavannes quits Liberal caucus, sits as independent MP

The Whitby, Ont., MP has been a vocal supporter of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott

Politicians hitting the road for votes in Alberta election campaign

NDP Leader Rachel Notley and United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney have officially launched campaigns

Most Read